Army Warrior Games Archery Clinic Receives Overwhelming Support from the Sumter Community, Third Army/ARCENT

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom

More than 30 Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO) assigned to Third Army decided to conduct their weekly staff meeting at the Sumter County State Fairgrounds, Sumter, South Carolina. After the meeting, several of the SNCOs and American Legion members posed for a photo and mingled with the more than 12 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers during the Warrior Transition Command hosted Army archery clinic on March 12-16. Photo Credit: LTC JeanetteGriffin.

After more than five months of planning, organizing, and collaborating with the Sumter community and Third Army/ARCENT, 12 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans traveled across the country to train and compete for places on the  Army Warrior Games team on March 12 -16 in Sumter, South Carolina.

The first archery selection clinic was conducted January 31- 5 February in Sumter, only the top eight archers from both recurve and compound bow competitions will earn a spot on the team.

“During the first clinic, 18 shooters came to Sumter with hopes of wearing the Army colors in this year’s Warrior Games,” said retired SFC Steven Coleman, the Warrior Games Army archery coach. “Of these 18, eight Soldiers were selected to return to the second clinic, and four more athletes were added to represent the Warrior Games Army archery team.”

These Soldiers are competing in hopes of being one of 50 athletes representing the Army during the 2012 Warrior Games starting next month in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I feel that this clinic really helped me increase my ability to shoot as well as my mental ability to perform at a higher level,” said AW2 Veteran Jessie White. “The local community of Sumter has given amazing support while we were here.”

More than 12 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans participated in The Warrior Transition Command's Army archery clinic on March 12-16. Third Army/ARCENT Medics and Combat Lifesavers assisted throughout the week. Photo Credit: (SSG Tracy J. Smith)

The list of supporters include American Legion Post 15, American  Whitetail, Coca-Cola, Crossroads Archery,  Dartfish, Elk’s Lodge, Gamecock Body Shop, Hansen International, emWave, and Third Army/ARCENT.

The offer of support to this effort began with the American Legion Post 15’s agreement to allow the Army archery participants to use the Agriculture Building located in the Sumter County Fairgrounds, in Sumter, South Carolina  for the first clinic held on January 31 to February 5, and the final qualification clinic that was conducted on March 12 -16.

U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Soldier (AW2) Curtis Winston prepares to shoot his recurve bow during training at the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) archery clinic in Sumter, South Carolina on March 12-16. The clinic, taught by U.S. Army Archery Coach and retired Sgt.1st Class Steven Coleman, prepared wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans for this year’s Warrior Games, in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 30-May 5. Photo Credit: SSG Tracy Smith

“The American Legion served breakfast every morning, a few Legion members treated the team to a lunch, and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Legion cooked and served dinner,” said Coleman.

Since Third Army/ARCENT recently moved from Fort McPherson, Georgia  to Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina,  Coleman’s dad, retired SGM Billy Coleman decided that they should visit Third Army/ARCENT to inform the organization that the Army archery clinic was scheduled to be held just a few miles from the base.

This meeting resulted in Stephenie Tatum, the Third Army/ARCENT media and community relations specialist, and SGM Fletcher the Third Army/ARCENT Public Affairs sergeant major and their team providing media support, committed military support, medics, and combat lifesavers during the clinic.

On Thursday, March 15, more than 30 Sergeants Majors and Directorate Chiefs assigned to Third Army/ARCENT conducted their weekly staff meeting at the Sumter State Fairgrounds.   After the meeting, several of the leaders posed for photos and mingled with the Soldiers and Veterans participating in the clinic extending words of encouragement and support.

“Overall, I felt that this was an excellent clinic,” said SGT Monica Southhall from CBWTU-Virginia. “I look forward to more clinics like this in the future.”

The archery clinic was an opportunity to get the community informed, involved, and excited about the Army’s archery team competing during the 2012 Warrior Games.  All the support provided by the Sumter community and Third Army/ARCENT was greatly appreciated and without a doubt, this was an outstanding clinic for everyone.

“Thanks to the outstanding support of the Sumter County community and several organizations, we have had two very successful clinics in Sumter County,” said Coleman.  “These organizations made it their mission to provide care and support for all of the Soldiers participating in the WTC archery clinics.”

Swimming for a Purpose

AW2 Veteran Michael Kacer pushes himself from the wall of the pool to start swimming the 50-meter backstroke. Kacer won silver in track and field during the 2010 Warrior Games and wants to compete in the 2012 Warrior Games in both swimming and track and field.

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
All of the Soldiers and Veterans who attended the first Warrior Transition Command (WTC) swimming clinic at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 10-11 wore swim suits designed to help them move faster in the water.  For AW2 Veteran, Michael Kacer, his contact lenses were the accessory that enhanced  his swimming experience.

“I have like 14 different pairs of contacts,” said Kacer, who wore a light blue pair of contacts that matched the water in the WRNMMC pool. “I have a pair to match almost every outfit.”

Kacer deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and sustained several injuries including a severed left arm, broken jaw, collapsed lungs, and three broken ribs from rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) missiles.  He was one of 60 Army Soldiers and Veterans competing for a spot on the Army’s team for the 2012 Warrior Games team that will take place in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 30 – May 5.

“I participated in the Warrior Games two years ago and won the silver in the 200-meter dash,” Kacer said. “I wanted to get back into the competition and try different fields and see if I can bring home some medals, and help out the Army team as much as I can.”

Like Kacer, this is not the first year for many of the clinic’s participants to compete in the Warrior Games. SSG Stefanie Mason and MSG Rhoden Galloway, both gold medal winners in swimming for the Army during the 2011 Warrior Games, attended the clinics for additional training as they hope to attend this year’s games.

Soldiers and Veterans participated in the first WTC swimming clinic at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. Photo credit: SSG Emily Anderson

“I’m excited to compete in the games this year, if I am slected for the team.” Mason said. “It’s a wonderful program the military and the Olympic Committee put on. It helps the Wounded Warriors mentally and physically get better.”

However, there are a few new faces who have found this year’s games as  an opportunity to compete and  enjoy the camerderie during the swimming clinic.

“I had a broken neck, but now I’m off of profile and swimming has given me an opportunity to get back in shape,” said SPC Lacey Hamilton, who is currently recovering at the Fort Meade WTU. “I’m enjoying the camerderie during this clinic, because when you’re in a WTU, your focus is on healing and not necessarily on the camerderie.”

Retired SPC Robert Patterson of Phoenix, Arizona, who has a spinal cord injury from a motor vehicle accident in 1981, found out about the Warrior Games and contacted the WTC Adaptive Reconditioning Branch chief.

“I got pretty good at swimming and found out about Warrior Games, so I contacted LTC [Keith] Williams,” Patterson said. “I compete in triathlons and just wanted to try something different.”

“ I hope to compete in hand cycling events and the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events,” he added. “I’m a little nervous, but hoping for the best. I plan to keep trying no matter what.”

This year’s Army athletes will compete against each other during the clinics before being considered for a spot for the Army’s Warrior Games team. For some, these clinics gave them a chance to really get a feel for competing against each other.

“I was asked if I wanted to try for the Warrior Games. I said I would try, but I’m not a great swimmer,” said SFC Daniel Arnette, who had brain surgery after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. “Swimming was my therapy when I was injured. I was used to swimming, but I had never done it competively before

“This clinic really helped. The coach and staff really helped me with my technique,” Arnette added. “Even if I don’t make the team, I know what I have to work on and will try again next year.”

The final qualification swimming clinic for the 2012 Army Warrior Games swim team will be held Friday, March 9.

AW2 Veteran Trains for Warrior Games Gold

AW2 Veteran retired SFC Marcia Morris-Roberts (center) warms up with other shot putters and athletes at the Army’s Warrior Games track and field clinic hosted by WTC at Fort Belvoir on February 9.

By Jim Wenzel, WTC STRATCOM
Dressed in black sweats on a chilly February morning, retired SFC Marcia Morris-Roberts warmed up with more than 40 other Army athletes on  Fort Belvoir’s Pullen Field. As a medically retired AW2 Veteran she is vying for a spot on the Army’s track and field team to compete at the 2012 Warrior Games.

The Warrior Games is an annual all-service athletic competition for wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers. The event will take place at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Morris-Roberts hopes to build off of last year’s silver medal win in the sitting shot put event.  “Warrior Games is a great outlet,” she remarked, “It keeps you motivated, and I think it’s been very instrumental in my recovery.”

Her journey to the Warrior Games began in 2010 when she lost her left leg below the knee as a result of frostbite.

It was during her recovery that she learned about the 2011 Warrior Games, and represented the Army last year in both swimming and field events. Her participation led her to seek out other adaptive reconditioning activities such as racquetball and rollerblading. Now she is back once more to challenge herself and other wounded, ill, and injured athletes.

After a round of practice shots, Morris-Roberts slid off the metal bleacher  as the next athlete to throw. Her long sweats and smooth movement made her injuries virtually invisible, but that is not the way she likes it.

“I don’t like wearing pants because I have a lot of cool patches on my [prosthetic] leg,” she said. “I’m happy and I’m proud of myself, I couldn’t get any better than I am right now.”

One of her goals is to not only compete for herself, but to provide inspiration and motivation to other wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers.  Her infectious smile and can-do attitude will certainly bolster her teammates through the hard work ahead of this year’s competition.

As Morris-Roberts continues her journey back to Colorado Springs seeking Warrior Games gold it is easy to see her enthusiasm for the future and those who have helped her on the way. “We had a great team of people that banded together like brothers and sisters,” she concluded, “I owe it all to them because they never let me quit.”

Army Warrior Games Training Comes to Fort Bliss

January 13, 2012 MSG Fernando Verones, Army Shooting Team Assistant Coach, demonstrates how to shoot the air rifle during the WTC shooting clinic held at the University of Texas, El Paso. Clinic participants are vying for a spot on the Army's Warrior Games 2012 shooting team. Photo Credit: SGT Valerie Lopez

By SGT Valerie Lopez, Headquarters 1st Armored Division
Inhale… exhale, the sound of breathing in a small quiet room, inhale…exhale, then a sudden pop as the pellet is shot from an air rifle into the target. The room is filled with Soldiers taking their shots at the tryouts for the 2012 Warrior Games Army shooting team.

25 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers gathered from different installations at Fort Bliss and El Paso to participate in the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) shooting training clinic from January 11-14.

“This is our very first of three shooting clinics for selecting the 2012 Warrior Games Army shooting team,” said MSG Howard Day, Army shooting coach and student at United States Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA). “We partnered with University of Texas El Paso and Fort Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB, and representatives from Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) in order to make this clinic happen.”

The first Warrior Games was held in 2010, as an introduction to Paralympic sports for wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and Veterans of all services: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Special Operations. During this year’s games, servicemembers and Veterans will compete in seven sports: archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball.

This year the Army’s shooting training camp was held at the University of Texas, El Paso’s (UTEP) ROTC building. The participating Soldiers and Veterans lodged in the Fort Bliss WTB Barracks.

“This year’s mission is to bring home the gold from the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado”, said Day.

During the clinic, the organizers setup three stations:-mental, physical, and range practice.

In the mental station, Lindsay Holtz, Performance Enhancement Specialist assisted shooters to create imagery scripts to do mental practice when they don’t have a weapon.

“It’s like a movie script that you play in your head to  help you keep your patterns, muscles, and mind prepared for when you go back out there,” said Holtz.

UTEP women’s shooting coach George Brenzovich and student athlete Andrea Vautrin, exchanging ideas with the shooters on different ways to deal with anxieties and the pressures of competing. They also demonstrated alternate positions for shooting pertaining to each person’s disabilities or weaknesses.

The third station was an indoor air shooting range at the ROTC building where the participants practiced shooting and received instructions from coach Day, assistant coaches, and USASMA students MSG Fernando Verones, MSG Roger Lewis, and SGM Martin Barreras with the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU).

“Despite their circumstances, these participants all come together to compete,” said Day.

One Soldier, SPC James Darlington, from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center WTB, at the young age of 19 was deployed with the 82nd Airborne when his group was hit with two rocket propelled grenades in July 2010, and his arm was struck. With nerve damage and muscle loss in his right arm, Darlington, now 21 years old, has his mom with him as his non-medical attendant.

“He did his job well,” said Gery Darlington, “because everyone came home from that deployment. He’s here alive, and we can deal with whatever happens with his arm.”

“The WTB has great programs to help Soldiers transition back to their units, and other activities to keep us from getting down,” said Darlington. “The shooting clinic helped us get better at shooting. I’m looking forward to getting on the team.”

The Soldiers’ injuries here run the full scope,” said Day, “from traumatic brain injury (TBI), to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to amputations. Many have multiple injuries and other medical conditions that challenge them.

SSG Tracy J. Smith, Alpha Company, CBWTU Georgia, Army National Guard with 48th Brigade, was deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan, survived mortar rounds, explosions, and firefights. Now battling TBI and PTSD, three pins in her knee and 50% hearing loss, Smith continues to stay active in everyday life.

“I was initially introduced to adaptive sports, and wanted to stay active and physically fit, so I did archery, seated shot put, track and field events, power lifting, and now marksmanship,” said Smith.

Smith said because of the TBI and the PTSD, she was at first nervous to handle a weapon, but after watching someone use the air rifle, it was not as “off-putting”. It was almost therapeutic.

“It’s almost a very easy reintroduction into the basics of Soldiering, but also very different from what we are taught in marksmanship,” said Smith. “I am doing this for those that can’t, for my battle buddy who is partly paralyzed and unable, because he would have if our situations were reversed.”

“Eighty-three Soldiers applied, and 75 were notified that they were eligible for these clinics,” said Day. “From these clinics, the best [shooters] will be put together to form our Army team.”

As a wounded Soldier himself, Day said it is vital for Soldiers to recognize that the injuries are not the end of their career and definitely not the end of possibilities in life.

“This is nothing but a speed bump, a simple turn in the road,” said Day. “There is a big bright future and lots of opportunities.”

For more information on the Warrior Games, visit http://usparalympics.org/military-and-veteran-programs/warrior-games-presented-by-deloitte

AW2 Soldier’s Sight Set on Gold

SGT Lester Perez started his cycling session with the arms-and-shoulder rotation, an exercise to prepare the upper body for physical activity, during the first Warrior Transition Command’s cycling clinic held January 13-14 in Coronado, CA. Photo Credit: SSG Emily Anderson

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
Winning a gold medal during the 2011 Warrior Games wheelchair basketball tournament was not enough for SGT Lester Perez, an AW2 Soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

“It felt great winning gold in wheelchair basketball, but that’s a group sport. I want to win in cycling, my individual event,” said Perez who participated in Warrior Transition Command (WTC) cycling clinics held in Coronado, California, January 13-14.

The training clinic gave candidates a chance to improve their cycling skills and honed their techniques as they prepared for selection for one of the cycling slots on the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games  team.

“Everyone’s working hard,” said SSG Mario Bilbrew, the Army Warrior Games cycling coach. “This clinic gave the participants a chance to see how well they are doing and what they need to continue to work on before the next one.”

Warrior Games is a sporting competition for wounded, ill, and injured athletes from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, and Special Operations Command where servicemembers compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals in seven sports at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“The games are great,” Perez said, “I love being a part of something so challenging and rewarding.”

During the clinic, athletes practiced proper gear changes, the correct way to breathe while performing, how to navigate around other athletes, and how important it is to listen to the rhythm of the bike during the ride.

“Cycling is much different than wheelchair basketball,” said Perez, who competed with the gold-medal Army team in 2011 after breaking both his legs during an improvised explosive device explosion while deployed in February 2010. “No one’s there, helping me do anything. I’m responsible for everything, good or bad.”

Participants found out their best cycling performances from the coach when he timed their completion of 6.2 miles around the track. Since only athletes with the best timed trials during the next two clinics qualify to compete in the Warrior Games, the coach made sure the athletes knew their times before they attended the next cycling clinic in February.

“I’ve had to get use to the pedaling with the hand cycle. It’s all upper body,” said Perez, who had a time of 16 minutes and 53 seconds during the timed trials. “The clinic was very informative and a learning experience that will help in the future.”

Perez, who practices six days a week for his events, will try to compete again in the wheelchair basketball event and hopes to participate in sitting volleyball during the Warrior Games.

“I think this will be my last year competing because when I  leave the WTU I  start working for another unit as an intelligence analyst,” said Perez.  Perez has completed his Comprehensive Tranisiton Plan goals and training for a new  military occupational specialty.“We all have to overcome challenges. I think I’ve adapted pretty well to everything,” Perez said. “Even if you get hurt in the Army, it’s not the end. You have to go out and live life.”

AW2 Veteran and Advocate Competes with ‘Fire in His Belly’ for a Slot on the Army Warrior Games Sitting Volleyball Team

By Erich Langer, Warrior Transition Command Public Affairs

AW2 Veteran and Advocate Armando Mejia is one of 41 Soldiers and Veterans competing at a University of Central Oklahoma clinic for a slot on the Army Warrior Games sitting volleyball team.

For one particular Veteran competing for a position on the 2012 Army Warrior Games sitting volleyball team, the selection clinic taking place this week in Oklahoma is pretty serious stuff.  Armando Mejia focused like a laser beam and was ‘all ears’ as he attentively listened to clinic organizers, USA Volleyball coaches and other cadre discuss the training schedule, expectations and responsibilities for each of the players seeking a coveted slot on the prestigious Army team that will compete for gold at next spring’s Warrior Games.

Another boring Army training brief not unlike scores of others he likely has heard throughout his military career? Nope, for Mejia this is all business.

Warrior Games is a joint endeavor between the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the U.S. Department of Defense. As many as 200 wounded, ill, and injured athletes from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy-Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations Command will compete next spring for gold medals in seven sports at the USOC’s National Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“After hearing about the opportunity to compete and represent the Army at the Warrior Games, I knew I wanted to do this,” said Mejia who credited MSG Rebeca Garo, AW2 Adaptive Sports Liaison who is serving as cadre staff for the clinic to getting him signed up for the clinic. “She was very enthusiastic about Warrior Games and provided me all the information I needed, she got me really excited about this opportunity.”

You can tell by looking in his eyes, this is something he wants. Coaches won’t have any motivational or discipline problems with Mejia; more likely, he’ll be a team leader that younger Soldiers and Veterans will look to for inspiration and guidance.

This ‘ain’t’ his first rodeo!

“I want to push myself physically and mentally during this week’s clinic,” said Mejia. “It feels great to be part of a team and the camaraderie is outstanding. It’s hard to describe the feelings of being part of a group that is focused on winning and becoming a more cohesive unit.”

His road to the University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) Army Warrior Gamessitting volleyball team selection clinic began in October 2004 while on a deployment to Iraq.  Mejia was traveling in a convoy when his HUMVEE was struck by an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED). Following the blast, his vehicle rolled 360 degrees.  He was pinned beneath the HUMVEE; injuries included broken bones, internal bleeding, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Post Traumatic Stress.  After more than 22 surgeries, Mejia decided to transition to Veteran status.

 

As an AW2 Veteran, Mejia is among more than 9,000 of the Army’s most severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans.  His affiliation with the Army could have ended there after all, he wasn’t in uniform any longer and the world presented him several opportunities.  Mejia chose a different path, a path that would lead him directly back to helping and working with Soldiers. No, he wouldn’t be wearing ACUs anymore but he would be responsible for scores of Soldiers as a newly minted AW2 Advocate.

“Mejia is something really special,” said Garo.  “He knew he wanted to help Soldiers like himself and continue to be a leader and mentor for others. So, he worked with his AW2 Advocate, Sue Maloney, who provided him some advice and recommendations on how to proceed. He his among as many as 200 AW2 Advocates working with, for, and on behalf of the Army’s most severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers.”

Like Maloney, Mejia is assisting severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers in the northwest.  He currently is posted at Joint Base Lewis McCord (JBLM).

 


WTC Soldier Reunites with Sister at Army’s 2012 Warrior Games Sitting Volleyball Team Selection Clinic

SGT Jontie Scott, Western Regional Medical Command, Ft. Lewis, Washington, a competitor at the 2012 WTC Warrior Games sitting volleyball team selection clinic pauses from the action on the court to chat with her sister Caroline, a student at the University of Central Oklahoma. Scott's service dog, Ava, sits patiently as the sisters catch up with each other after being apart for several years.

By Erich Langer, WTC Stratcom
When SGT Jontie Scott learned that she would be traveling to Oklahoma for the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games sitting volleyball team selection clinic, her first shout out was to her sister Caroline. The sisters are close but hadn’t seen each other in more than five years, so an opportunity to catch up would be great. Scott was injured in Iraq and spent time recovering in Texas, and most recently at the Warrior Transition Unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA.

“I contacted my sister to tell her I’d be coming to the clinic and thought we might have an opportunity to get together,” said Scott, who is currently assigned to the Western Regional Medical Command (WRMC). “I knew Caroline was living in Oklahoma but didn’t realize she was attending college at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). We laugh about it now, but the Warrior Transition Command’s (WTC) sitting volleyball clinic is taking place on the same campus, right down the street from where she lives and goes to school. Sometimes it can be a pretty small world!”

WTC teamed up with UCO, USA Volleyball, and the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Paralympics program for the Oklahoma clinic. Coaches, managers, cadre, and support staff traveled to the university to help the Army athletes fine tune their sitting volleyball skills as they compete for 13 slots on the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games team. The Army Warrior Games team earned a silver medal in 2011, but is committed to earning gold in 2012.

“UCO is an official U.S. Olympic training site and has been an official U.S. Paralympics training site since 2005,” said Elliot Blake, U.S. sitting volleyball athlete recruitment coordinator. “This is the second year UCO and the Army teamed up for a sitting volleyball clinic on campus. The 41 Soldiers and Veterans attending this year’s clinic are very committed to our training regime, which can be pretty intense. From what I’ve seen this week, the athletes here will match up very well against the Marines.”

Scott hopes to be one of those 13 athletes named to the team and worked hard all week to improve her sitting volleyball skills, techniques, and team play.

“I like sports and have always been very competitive, and I think that helps me when I play the seated game,” said Scott. “I learned at Ft. Hood and played at Ft. Lewis for a while now, and think I’m getting better but the competition at the UCO clinic is very intense. Lots of good athletes here.”

Caroline briefly interrupted her sister stating that Jontie is also a very good athlete and competed in several sports including track and field while in high school. “Jontie is much too modest,” said Caroline. “She was an outstanding athlete before she joined the Army and scoots across the volleyball court like a pro. It’s awesome that the Army has an adaptive sports and reconditioning program for their wounded warriors and that clinics like this one are available. I’m just learning about Warrior Games and international competition opportunities these Soldiers and Veterans can set their sights on, and I think it really is great that adaptive sport opportunities exist for the Soldiers.”

Scott competed at the Valor Games in Chicago this past summer and now has a few additional sports under her belt. With that experience she may also compete for cycling and track and field slots on the 2012 Warrior Games team.

“The Valor Games were really fun. I competed in power lifting for the first time and won gold,” said an excited Scott. “I hope I can also earn a slot on the Army Warrior Games track and field and cycling teams. The shot put is new to me but I feel good about running the 100-meter dash and cycling.”

In addition to cheering on her sister, Caroline has another important duty at the clinic: watching and attending to the needs of Scott’s service dog, Ava. The German shepherd goes everywhere with her Soldier and helps her physically and mentally. Ava learned commands in German when trained as a police dog. She was retrained as a service dog and has been by Scott’s side since August.

“Ava is great. She really is my attendant and knows when I get frustrated or tense,” said Scott. “I’m prone to nightmares and knowing that she is there is very comforting. She even helps steady me when I start to lose my balance or need to get up off the floor. I got her free from an organization in Bellingham, Washington and I’m very grateful for them for teaming us up.”

If Scott punches her ticket for the 2012 Warrior Games, you can count on Caroline and Ava to be on the sidelines cheering her to victory.

Oklahoma City YMCA Rolls out the Red Carpet for Soldiers Participating in the 2011 WTC Sitting Volleyball Clinic

By:  Erich Langer, WTC Stratcom
When 41 Soldiers, 14 coaches, WTU cadre, and additional support staff arrived at Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport, each received a reality check that winter weather had come to America’s southwest.  Snow flurries and frigid temperatures greeted Soldiers traveling from as far away as Europe and Hawaii to participate in the Warrior Transition Command’s (WTC) Warrior Games sitting volleyball team selection clinic. At the conclusion of the week, the Army will announce the team that will compete at the 2012 Warrior Games next spring.

Oklahoma City YMCA Military Welcome Center Volunteers Bob Russum and Jeri Milford (presenting pizza) surprised WTC Soldiers and Veterans with hot pizza upon their arrival at the center. The Soldiers and Veterans are participating in a week-long sitting volleyball clinic at the University of Central Oklahoma in partnership with USA Volleyball and the U.S. Olympic Committee's Paralympics program.

Warrior Games is a joint endeavor between the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the U.S. Department of Defense. As many as 200 wounded, ill, and injured athletes from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy-Coast Guard, Air Force, and Special Operations Command will compete next spring for gold medals in seven sports at the USOC’s National Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Despite the cold conditions, the Oklahoma City YMCA Military Welcome Center made sure the Soldiers and Veterans received a warm Oklahoma welcome.

“I’ve got Soldiers, Veterans, coaches, managers, medical personnel, and additional cadre and staff arriving from Army posts around the world for our sitting volleyball clinic,” said SFC Jarrett Jongema, Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC), of WTC’s Adaptive Sports and Reconditioning Branch The folks here at the ‘Y’ are great; they have outstanding facilities, great snacks, drinks, computer work stations, comfortable couches, and chairs. It’s just a great place for Soldiers to relax as they await transportation. The ‘Y’ is providing their facilities for our personnel as they arrive and await transport to the hotels.  Our Soldiers are very fortunate that these excellent facilities are staffed by some pretty amazing volunteers here in Oklahoma City.”

YMCA volunteers Bob Russum and Jeri Milford volunteer at the facility and scored a big ‘Hooah!’ from the Army athletes when they arranged for hot pizza to be delivered before the arrival of a large contingent of Soldiers.  Several pepperoni, sausage and cheese pizzas awaited the weary travelers.

“I find it a real rewarding experience, really an honor, to provide these services to our servicemembers,” said Russum, an 82-year-old retired veterinarian and three-year YMCA volunteer. Russum, a Korean War Veteran, served aboard a hospital ship with the Navy. Milford, a housewife and mother of teenage children, was looking for a way to serve when she discovered the opportunity to volunteer at the Military Welcome Center. “To me, it feels really good to do something for people that are so appreciative,” she said. “I like helping people and I can’t think of more deserving folks than the servicemembers who protect all of us.”

The cold weather outside will be an afterthought when the Soldiers and Veterans begin sweating in the training facilities at the University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) Wellness Center. Individual and small group drills as well as team fundamentals will be emphasized and hammered home by coaches and team managers. Athletes will have morning and afternoon training sessions that include a mid-day lunch and recuperation break.  

In 2011, the Army sitting volleyball team earned a silver medal after falling short against the Marines in the finals. A renewed effort to train and better prepare to compete against the Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Special Operations Command have brought the Army athletes to Oklahoma to train with some of the best sitting volleyball coaches in the country. UCO is an official U.S. Olympic Training Site and has been an official U.S. Paralympic Training Site since 2005. At the university, athletes train for Olympic volleyball, archery, and other Paralympic sports. UCO currently hosts 16 resident athletes in the Paralympic sports of sitting volleyball, archery, and track and field. 

“This marks the second year that UCO, USA Volleyball, the U. S. Olympic Committee’s Paralympics program, and the U.S. Army sitting volleyball team have partnered together to train Soldiers and Veterans for the Army Warrior Games team,” said Elliot Blake, U.S. Sitting Volleyball athlete recruitment coordinator. “The majority of these Soldiers and Veterans aren’t new to sitting volleyball, but the clinic will be a focused effort by our coaches, training staff, and managers to help these athletes fine tune the skills as they compete for slots on the team.

Participating Soldiers and Veterans include:
SPC Roland Ada, Tripler Army Medical Center
SPC Michael Blount, Ft. Campbell
SGT Joseph Boscia, European Regional Medical Command
SPC Patricia Chatman, Ft. Eustis
SSG Krisell Creager-Lumpkins, Ft. Carson
SPC Gregory Dame, Ft. Carson
Victor Favero, Veteran
Robbie Gaupp, Veteran
SSG Christopher Gonzalez, Ft. Bliss
SGT Hayro Gonzalez Ft. Hood
SGT Michael Gregory, Ft. Leonard Wood
Lawrence Guerro, Veteran
SFC Aaron Hauzer, Ft. Leonard Wood
SGT Hilton Hunter, Ft. Eustis
SPC Joshua Ivey, Ft. Benning
Chess Johnson, Veteran
SSG Timothy Jones, Ft. Gordon
CPT William Longwell, Walter Reed
SSG Ammala Louangketh, European Regional Medical Command
SSG Derrick Luster, European Regional Medical Command
SGT Delvin Matson, Brooke Army Medical Center
Armando Mejia, Veteran
CPL Brian Miller, Community-Based Warrior Transition UnitVirginia
Douglas Moore, Veteran
SPC Jason Moore, Ft. Meade
SPC Jason Myers, Ft. Stewart
SPC Jared Page, Ft. Sill
1LT Brian Peeler, Western Regional Medical Command
PV2 Joshua Reditt, Ft. Meade
SPC Jacob Richardson, Tripler Army Medical Command
SSG Isacc Rios, European Regional Medical Command
SPC Michael Robinson, European Regional Medical Command
SGT Jonte Scott, Ft. Lewis
SPC Alejandro Seguritan, Brooke Army Medical Center
SGT Monica Southall, Community-Based Warrior Transition UnitVirginia
SFC Jason Sterling, Ft. Lewis
Christopher Strickland, Veteran
SPC Sandy Valdez, Tripler Army Medical Center
CPT Ronald Whetstone, Ft. Bliss
SSG Jessie White, Ft. Meade
SGT Ilisa Zafroski, Ft. Benning

 

Mental Resilience Helps Achieve Success

By Kaitlyn Donohoe, CSF-PREP Performance Enhancement Specialist

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) performance specialist Kaitlyn Donohoe, works with Army track and field athletes at the 2011 Warrior Games.

The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) educates and trains individuals on the behavioral skills that underlie human performance excellence. The program is designed to enhance personal and professional performances by developing the full potential of Soldiers, Family members, and Army Civilians. CSF-PREP accomplishes this by using a systematic process to teach and train the behavioral skills essential to the pursuit of personal strength, professional excellence, and the Warrior Ethos.

CSF-PREP education and training focuses on bridging the gap between the rehabilitation process and the Soldier’s transition back into the Army or civilian life by providing the knowledge and skills to craft their future. CSF-PREP teaches Soldiers the critical underlying skills needed to take ownership and control of their recovery, to focus on their abilities versus disabilities, and to provide the tools to help enhance their mindset so that they have a sense of purpose and are effectively motivated about their future.

In elite competition, such as the Warrior Games that took place last month, all athletes train to enhance their physical skills; what separates medal winners from the rest is mental strength. CSF-PREP trains the mental strength of individuals. In working with the Warrior Games athletes, we worked with individual athletes and teams to teach them the skills of our education model and the ways to apply them to their athletic performances. Each Soldier and Veteran who participated in the Warrior Games completed at least 16 hours of classroom education to learn and develop a foundational knowledge of the skills we utilize.

For the Warrior Games, I had the privilege to work with the Army track and field team. In addition to the general CSF-PREP training, I conducted another five hours of applied group training that was tailored to track and field events and team building. As a part of this training, each athlete created a mental performance plan for each event during individual or small group sessions.

With an individual sport like track and field, Soldiers athletes need to focus on the right thing and manage their nerves and energy to have optimal performance. For example, I worked with a Soldier for several weeks before the Warrior Games began. He was excited to have the opportunity to compete again, as he had not played sports competitively since high school, but was worried about how he would perform in such a highly visible event.

This sense of discouragement can negatively influence one’s performance. Before the Games, I discussed with the Soldier about the influence of a positive attitude on performance and how focused attention and energy on factors within one’s control has power over one’s performance. We also worked to create tangible goals for competition and plans for how to achieve them and help achieve a greater sense of control.

When we first arrived at the Warrior Games training camp, the Soldier had a more effective attitude toward his performance. Throughout the training camp, we finalized his individualized mental training plan to focus on imagery, pre-performance routines, refocus techniques, and recovery techniques. We worked to maintain focus amidst distractions and set the conditions for success, regardless of the circumstances that may try to get in the way of optimal performance. At the Warrior Games, this Soldier effectively applied the mental skills we discussed to his physical skills and techniques and earned a silver medal for the Army team.

The journey to obtain mental strength for life is a continuous process and is unique to every individual. To share in this collective journey of personal growth with the warrior athletes, cadre, coaches, medical staff and other CSF-PREP performance specialists was a priceless and tremendously gratifying experience. I can honestly say I have the best job, because I had the honor to work with the men and women who gave so much to defend our nation and our freedom.

Editor’s Note: Kaitlyn Donohoe has a background in Sport Performance Psychology and has a Master of Science from Miami University of Ohio in Sport Psychology. She has several years of experience working with athletes and individuals to enhance performance through mental skills training.

A Reflection on Warrior Games

By SFC Ronald Black, Warrior Games Track and Field Team Squad Leader

Warrior Games track and field athletes and their event squad leader (from left to right) SGT Robbie Gaupp, squad leader SFC Ronald Black, SPC Stuart Lancaster, and CPL Quintarious Almon.

Warrior Games is a once in a lifetime experience. I was blessed to be able to attend the Games for a second year to cheer on the Army team. It was a privilege to be among wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans who gave significant sacrifices for our freedom. It was a proud feeling.

Being part of Warrior Games was exciting, especially for track and field, because I saw the competiveness in each Soldier when they were training and challenging each other. The motivation and the drive to push each other and themselves to the limit was so amazing to watch. Knowing I had a part in helping make this a reality for our wounded warriors was awesome.

Throughout the training week and the competition, I was at a loss for words. Seeing a few familiar faces from last year and hearing the guys talk about how they were going to beat the Marines and take it all was so great. I could feel the excitement. Knowing our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans haven’t lost the will to compete and haven’t let their disability hold them back was astonishing.

I also noticed how everyone seemed to pick a battle buddy. This person became someone they could go to for their power or spiritual support.

As the battle rhythm began to kick in, the coaches helped the competitors become more focused, and the preparation from Kaitlyn Donohoe, the track and field performance enhancement specialist, and associated specialists was awesome. They pulled the team together when the athletes seemed to get out of sync and helped them stay focused.

In the final days of training it was like night and day. Our team was ready. I could see the seriousness on their faces and was just amazed. I was, and still am, proud to be a part of this team.

 

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